Illumination Night In Sigourney Square Park

9/19/2014 |


Working with the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Sigourney Square Park, we staged a modern version of "Illumination Night," a late 19th century tradition in Sigourney Square Park that involved paper lanterns strung about the park and on surrounding houses.  Back then, they got to use candles in their lanterns, while we made do with florescent flashlights and tin foil.

We estimate that around 125 people attended the event.  Attendees had a good time watching great performances by Sankofa Kuumba and Hartford's Proud Drill, Dance & Drum Corp and then listening to great music performed by Ron Pitz & Friends.  Funding for the musical performances for this event was generously provided by the Evelyn W. Preston Memorial Trust Fund.  The Hartford Public Works Department helped with the set-up, dispatching a bucket truck and crew to help string the lights across the interior of the park, and we had the supportive presence of the Hartford Police Department and our Community Service Officer, Chris Chanaca.
That's the official description.  As for the real description, well, things could've gone a little better!  For the most part, though, the event went well, and everyone had fun, but we definitely learned a few things.  We got our first hint of things to come this morning, as we transported the lanterns from our office to the park.  It was absolutely the right idea to assemble them all well ahead of time and in the controlled interior environment of our office, but we didn't think far enough ahead to realize that all of those lanterns might night fit so well in a car!  Made for some interesting photos at least.
And what did we learn?  First, it wouldn't have been nearly as bright in the park 100 years ago:  streetlights, porch lights, spot lights, traffic lights all proliferate in and around the park, and really we should have factored all of these lights into our plans.  Our LEDs, environmentally sound as they are, were simply overwhelmed by all of the ambient light.  Second, we set the performers up along the edge of the park in order to reach the municipal power outlets, but that also meant that the performers were right along Sigourney Street, a very busy and noisy thoroughfare through the neighborhood.  And last, many of the attendees claimed the lanterns as souvenirs, which we hadn't anticipated.  We are glad they liked them so much -- but we had been thinking that we would re-use them.
We may try this again at some point in the future, after we recover from this experience, but it's going to come down to whether we can find a lighting system that's really, really bright and that's sufficiently cost effective that we won't take a big hit if the lights then walk away.
Additional photos here by Bernie Michel.

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